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Rewriting a State Constitution for Partisan Advantage:

When I first heard about the ballot initiative sponsored by Reform Michigan Government Now, I assumed it was just an aggressive effort to make several progressive state constitutional reforms in one fell swoop. Then I looked into it a little more — largely because I was curious about the proposed revisions to the composition of the state judiciary — and was a bit taken aback. Among other things the plan would eliminate two seats on the State Supreme Court and several more on the state Courts of Appeals, but increase the number of state trial judges. Each of these reforms would operate so as to increase the proportion of Democrat-appointed judges on the bench, which is, to the least, a bit curious. Then a strategy document prepared for initiative proponents was discovered, and it all fit into place. The ballot initiative is, at heart, a stealth effort to reform the Michigan state constitution, and shift control of the state courts, for partisan advantage. I discuss the plan in more detail in this NRO column.

There's one interesting development I do not discuss in the column. Initiative opponents are mounting a legal challenge to keep the initiative off the ballot. Among other things, they argue that there is no way to accurately summarize the 19,500-word initiative in 100 words, as required by state law. Initiative proponents defend their efforts, arguing among other things, that state judges should not hear the case because they have a "conflict of interest" due to the fact that some state judges would lose their positions inf the measure passes. What an ingenious argument to evade judicial review!

[Typos fixed — ah the dangers of blogging in an airport.]

Kenvee:
That PowerPoint is seriously disturbing, especially the way it casually mentions revamping the entire judiciary to control the state supreme court because "it can overrule the other three" elected branches that are supposed to control redistricting. Pre-planned judicial activism at its finest -- and most blatant!
7.29.2008 12:04pm
PLR:
Missouri dodged a similar bullet in the last legislative session, though in our case the culprits were the conservatives. The initiative didn't deal with numbers of judges, but the way in which the appellate judges would have been selected.
7.29.2008 12:09pm
RSF677:
I believe you mean initiative opponents are mounting a legal challenge.
7.29.2008 12:12pm
alkali (mail):
For what it's worth, a rewrite of the state constitution motivated by a desire for partisan advantage is OK if the reforms are a good idea on their face.

Among other things, this proposal seeks to remove the Republican gerrymandering advantage by requiring redistricting by a neutral bipartisan commission. Would the proponents of this proposal be in favor of this if they had been doing the gerrymandering? Hell, no. But it's still a good idea.

That said, the proposal seems like a mixed bag to me. The stupidest part is the proposal for steep pay cuts for elected officials. Yes, please, let's make these thankless jobs even less attractive to anyone but confirmed narcissists and trust-fund idiots.
7.29.2008 12:16pm
Justin (mail):
I agree that this initiative is bad, but conservatives who sat around idly when Republicans in state legislatures aggressivly gerrymandered districts mid-decade started a prisoner's dilemna that Democrats would be stupid not to partake in. Turnabout is unfortunately fair play.
7.29.2008 12:17pm
Cornellian (mail):
What an ingeneous arguement to evade judicial review! You wouldn't believe the flack we get from law professors and law firm partners when we spell "argument" with an extra 'e.'
7.29.2008 12:30pm
Noops (mail):
I agree with Justin. Democrats complained bitterly during the gerrymandering that happened all over at state levels during the 1990's and early 2000's. That scorched earth policy lead everyone lower. And no Republicans are complaining about the very same type of policy-making?
7.29.2008 12:39pm
Ted F (www):
How come Cornellian isn't complaneing aboot the mipselling of "ingenious"?
7.29.2008 12:40pm
Houston Lawyer:
The mid-decade Republican redistricting in Texas was in response to a decade-old Democrat redistricting whose continuation was abetted by a Federal judge. Anyway, it was approved by the elected representatives and upheld by the Supreme Court. No parlimentary rules were changed nor were any justices removed from the bench during the process. The only thing untoward that happened was the bringing of bogus charges against Tom Delay. It's not like the Republicans re-wrote the Texas constitution to their own advantage and tried to impose it on the electorate as "reform".
7.29.2008 12:46pm
Sarcastro (www):
Gerrymandering is widespread, so why not do the same thing for judges? They never rule on the law anyhow. I forsee no future political problems with this at all.

I LOVE turnabout being fair play! The important thing is not that Dems stoop below Republican dirty tricks, it's that the right side wins, the Republic be damned!
7.29.2008 12:47pm
Happyshooter:
The unions rule Michigan. At every level except the court of appeals and supreme court they are in charge. This includes all trial court judges in any major city including the state capitol.

The unions have lost the last three cycles in the appeal and supreme courts only because the insurance companies out spent them in media buys.

The unions also rule the legislature, but two cycles ago they didn't and had not for a few years.

The court thing is obvious.

Less obvious is the reason for the state house and senate salary cuts. Those serving are allowed second jobs but most can't hold one because it really is a full time plus job. Unions are allowed to pay their members while they serve, PKUS under union contracts they maintain their senority and retirement from the initial employer just like they do for a union position.
7.29.2008 12:47pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
Justin, the democrats have been just as guilty of these shenanigans. See California. Also, this hardly started in the 90s, at least not the 1990s. American politicians have been playing these games since the republic was founded.

I'm not sure there is any clean way to resolve these problems so long as voters keep reelecting state officials who will continue to gerrymander.

I really don't think this proposal will work because the 100 word summary appears designed to avoid 19,000 word amendments that reconstitute the entire state government. Apparently the drafters of the MI state constitution believed it would be unwise to let such a giant iceberg of a change be voted on while only the tip is visible to the average voter.
7.29.2008 12:50pm
guest 3874:
There was a similarly-titled ballot initiative in Ohio two years ago called "Reform Ohio Now." It was funded by wealthy, out-of-state interests (George Soros, etc.) and was aimed at changing how the legislative districts are drawn. Care to guess which party would have benefited from the "reforms"?
7.29.2008 12:51pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
Happy, thanks for your insightful post about the unions. It explains a lot.
7.29.2008 12:52pm
Michigander:
The reason for the legislative salary cuts is clear: the legislature is very unpopular here, due to the state's recession and near-governmental breakdown last fall. Hence, voters are being sold on the proposal as a means for punishing the legislature. The proposal is very popular, almost entirely for that reason.

Here's another thought: the redistricting commission created by the proposal would be staffed by members chosen by the political parties, not by voters in any fashion. The decisions of the commission would become law without any action by the legislature or governor. Can an argument be made that the redistricting section violates the federal guarantee of a republican government, as laws would be made by persons who derive their authority in no way from the will of the people?
7.29.2008 12:56pm
Dave N (mail):
I am in favor of a non-partisan redistricting plan--for both California and Michigan. Iowa has a good model. I am not holding my breath waiting for other states to emulate it.

This plan is fairly egregious--and the Powerpoint shows how naked of a power grab it really is.

However, Michael Barone, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of American politics, wrote about the 2001 Michigan redistricting in The Almanac of American Politics:
For the first time since the 1930s, redistricting was controlled by Republicans, with majorities in both houses of the legistlature and with Governor John Engler determined to use the power to reverse the Democrats' 9-7 edge to a 9-6 Republican edge. He succeeded. There was no pretence of bipartisanship: bills were introduced in the House and Senate abruptly in June 2001 and passed on nearly party line votes.
Barone went on to note that there were two sets of Democratic incumbents redistricted together; another chose to retire; and Minority Whip David Bonior decided to run for Governor because his district was unwinable.

Those who read this blog know my general partisan sympathies. But I am no hack. And while I am against the Reform Michigan plan, Barone's analysis puts it into context.
7.29.2008 12:58pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
It takes an astonishing degree of political bias and/or ignorance to assert, as Justin and Noops do, that gerrymandering was either invented by Republicans or unusually outrageous in the 1990s.

This Berkeley webpage matches my memory of the times:

"Democrats dominated the old [California] delegation thanks to districts crafted with an artisan's skill by the late Phil Burton, a Democratic congressman from San Francisco who died in 1983. Burton's gerrymander helped increase the Democrats' grip on the delegation from 22-21 in 1980 to 27-18 following the next election (California gained two seats in the 1980 census). Essentially, Burton split traditionally Democratic minority communities among several districts to enhance Democratic chances, compacted as many Republicans as possible into single districts and drew meandering boundaries in such places as Marin and Orange counties to create Democratic districts in otherwise hostile territory. As a result, Democrats remained dominant throughout the 1980s. But the election of a Republican governor, Pete Wilson, in 1990 ended Democratic hegemony. When Wilson vetoed reapportionment plans pushed through the Democrat-led Legislature in 1991, the task of drawing new congressional districts fell to the California Supreme Court, which appointed a panel of retired judges as 'special masters' to perform the work."

As I recall, that 27-18 (60%) advantage in seats was accomplished with only 40% of the total vote, for a net shift of 9 seats (20% of 45) in just that one state.

I am not suggesting that Democrats invented gerrymandering, though some of them, like Burton, were skilled and shameless practicioners long before the mid-1990s. Both parties have been doing it for many years. Elbridge Gerry -- a 'Democratic-Republican', appropriately enough -- died in 1814.
7.29.2008 12:58pm
Happyshooter:
Happy, thanks for your insightful post about the unions. It explains a lot.

The unions are the ones bankrolling this initiative.

I have lived in other states, and Michigan is run by the unions. It is really odd just how much power they have.

However, they are not as strong as they once were. When I was growing up they literally were in charge of wide swaths of public life, not just public officeholders.

The union would send kids to approved camps, give Christmas gifts, and literally had 'jap cars' banned from many parking lots around the state.

No pol then could say anything they didn't like and hold office. Now taking a position too strongly against what the union wants will result in a strongly funded opposition, but that is it.

The union has also had to start really gouging the big-3 to keep control of the state. The last few contracts have forced the companies to give a paid day off to the union member for each election day, and provide the unions with fueled vans for transport.
7.29.2008 12:59pm
Al Maviva (mail):
Those who read this blog know my general partisan sympathies. But I am no hack. And while I am against the Reform Michigan plan, Barone's analysis puts it into context.

Yes, it does so clearly. The Republicans win an election and redistrict, so the Dems hope to win the next election, redistrict and rig the courts. Nothing wrong with that.
7.29.2008 1:08pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
The big three aren't really that big anymore. One wonders how long they can keep feeding the hand that bites them.

Actually that raises an interesting question- why haven't the big three abandoned Michigan altogether? I know a lot of work has left, but why does any remain. For that matter, why would any business move to Michigan at all these days?
7.29.2008 1:09pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
Al Maviva, the dems admit (in the UAW powerpoint linked above) they can't win the elections so they want to redraw the entire government so they can win in the future (2015-2020 timeframe it seemed). This isn't a proper exercise of power or it would be far less controversial.

This is an attempt to do something that is plainly forbidden by the Michigan constitution (ballot measure amendments that aren't properly summarized for the ballot). Florida has a similar measure for the same reasons of clarity and honesty- You can't logroll big changes through on the back of something popular without disclosing everything you are doing. This is exactly the sort of ballot initiative such constitutional restrictions guard against.
7.29.2008 1:16pm
Sarcastro (www):
I can't wait till the Republicans win the NEXT next election, redistrict and rig the courts and then make the position permanent. Nothing wrong with that.
7.29.2008 1:32pm
Don Miller (mail) (www):
Once upon a time, I played around with a computer program that I wrote that took GIS data and Census data and did redistricting lines based on nothing more than trying to have as near equal number of people in each district as possible. My original though about this was after some court battles about redistricting in my State

My program was quick and dirty and would draw really weird boundaries. It would be easy to do a more advanced on that tried to keep traditional neighborhood boundaries intact for example.

No major political party would ever allow something like that be used. It doesn't matter Democrat or Republican, they all know the power of redistricting and they all abuse it.
7.29.2008 1:32pm
alkali (mail):
The unions rule Michigan. At every level except the court of appeals and supreme court they are in charge.

Unions are powerful in Michigan, but that has not translated into Democratic dominance in state government. John Engler, a very powerful Republican governor, held office from 1991 to 2003. During a substantial part of that period, Republicans held majorities of both houses of the state legislature. They still control the state Senate. The current AG is a Republican.
7.29.2008 1:38pm
Justin (mail):
1) There's a difference between gerrymandering and the unprecedented mid-decade gerrymandering in Texas and Colorado. That does not make (political) gerrymandering correct (or even Constitutional, although I BELIEVE in recent decisions - correct me if I am wrong - that the 4 most conservative members of the Court have implied it is always so, with the 4 more liberals arguing it is not, and Kennedy implying that if it is egregious enough, it might not be Constitutional, but that he's never seen such a case).

2) That DeLay's redistricting in Texas "was in response to a decade-old Democrat redistricting whose continuation was abetted by a Federal judge" thus misses the point. In any event, I do not think carving Austin into little tiny pieces was really done simply to restore balance to the Texas voting districts.
7.29.2008 1:42pm
Sarcastro (www):
Justin, so if it's good enough for DeLay, it's okay for Michigan Dems to go even further?
7.29.2008 1:46pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Don Miller:

I blogged about the possibility of computer-drawn district lines way back in 2002, and got a Kaus link for it. The post is here, though the comments have been lost and many of the links (including Kaus) are dead.

What I did not mention there is what seems to me a very elegant solution: offer a $20,000 prize for the best redistricting plan, with 'best' defined in a totally unambiguous mathematical way. One possibility: the winning plan is the one where the total length of all district boundaries in the state is the shortest. I'm no mathematician, but I believe that would in fact produce very compact and contiguous districts. A second possibility: same definition, but boundaries that follow county lines do not count. That would make for districts that included whole counties as much as possible, while the necessary bites out of neighboring counties to even up the population totals would be as compact as possible. The reason I say that a prize should be offered is that I suspect that computers are not capable of calculating least-total-boundary maps in finite amounts of time, so humans would have to do the designing even as computers did the judging.
7.29.2008 1:57pm
CJColucci:
"Democrat" is the noun form. When used as a modifier, the proper form is "Democratic." There's a long history behind this "mistake," which some, no doubt, know.
7.29.2008 2:09pm
alkali (mail):
@Don Miller/Dr. Weevil: Iowa does largely computerized redistricting. Details are available here.
7.29.2008 2:14pm
ejo:
Michigan and the Unions will apparently swirl down the toilet bowl together, along with the Big 3. what would it matter if the dems controlled the judiciary? the Court might reverse medmal reform-that won't change the business climate in the State.
7.29.2008 2:23pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Redistricting in California now requires a 2/3 vote, with the "compromise" result that incumbents of both parties are protected. The current trend is to push for non-partisan redistricting in blue states, but ever-more-aggressive gerrymandering where Republicans are in control. (See not only Michigan, but also Pennsylvania and Florida.) Doubtless this unilateral disarmament by the Democrats will receive the imprimatur of Joe Lieberman, so we know it's good.
7.29.2008 2:43pm
ejo:
really-that's the trend. wow, the Democrats must be a bunch of innocent, doe eyed babes in the wood. if the trend were to push for non-partisan redistricting, they must not have got the memo in Michigan. either that or the poster is all wet.
7.29.2008 2:58pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Jim at FSU:

We had a verbose and weird food health &environmental initiative on the ballot in California many years back to which the opposition argument was, "Vote for Proposition ## if you understand it.". The initiative was overwhelmingly defeated.
7.29.2008 3:20pm
Dave N (mail):
As many have noted, both political parties have engaged in some blatant redistricting. Anyone suggesting that either political party is innocent is being disingenuous--Andrew J. Lazarus' snark is a case in point.
7.29.2008 3:44pm
NickM (mail) (www):
California redistricting does not require a 2/3 vote. At the time of the 2002 redistricting, the California legislative primary occurred in March, so a redistricting plan needed to become legally effective before the end of 2001 (candidates had to file in 2001). To become legally effective the same year it is passed, a bill in CA requires a 2/3 vote in each house; otherwise it takes effect January 1 of the following year.
Now, the CA legislative primary is in June, so a bill that passes by majority vote will be legally effective as of the time that candidates file for office.

Nick
7.29.2008 5:02pm
BillW:
Redistricting is easy, if all you want is getting the districts about the same size. Just start in one corner of the state and add census tracts until you've included 1/Nth of the state. Draw a line around it and repeat. Redistricting becomes hard when you want to do more, lumping together small groups of people or splitting too-large groups. It only becomes really hard when you're trying to stack the deck, to prefix the elections.

Rather than searching for the One True Algorithm, I'd like to see redistricting commissions soliciting proposals from anyone who wanted to make one. Then rate them on number of safe districts for each party, district compactness, split communities, etc. Hold the obnoxious gerrymanders up to public ridicule, and settle on one of the middle-of-the-road plans.
7.29.2008 5:03pm
Justin (mail):
I'm not saying Democrats "should" do it, only that it is a Prisoner's Dilemna. Although Democrats (and indeed everyone) might be better off if neither side did it, given that the other side is now going to do it (now that any truces are long broken), both sides have a massive incentive to do it regardless. Otherwise, as Andrew Lazarus notes at least partially correctly, you end up with unilateral disarming).

Note: Lazarus is wrong in his argument, if right in his sarcastic statement, for a couple of reasons. Mainly, Lazarus ignores the fundamental differences between protectionist gerrymandering and partisan gerrymandering.

In protectionist gerrymandering, the goal is to protect incumbents by overloading their districts with supporters. In partisan gerrymandering, you try and overload your opponents districts with supporters to create fewer of them, and then create as many vaguely safe (say, 60-40) districts as you can.

Protectionist gerrymandering may lead to more of one party being elected than in a neutral system, but that is not the goal - and it certainly will lead to less than partisan gerrymandering will get you.

A good gerrymandering start is to read the discourse about the topic by Nathaniel Persilly and Issac Issacheroff regarding "Foxes Guarding Henhouses."

As to the states, the same liberal groups are behind California, Pennsylvania, and Florida - and each seek to make redistricting less political. The only difference is that in California, you have them joined by some Republicans, and also you have institutional Democrats who are opposed. That should be hardly shocking. But the fact that it is a liberal group (Common Cause) spearheading the action in EVERY state, and that conservatives have NO record of supporting these types of measures without particular gain, I don't think we can play the whole "both sides are equally bad" game, as fun as it is.
7.29.2008 5:12pm
Dr. Scott (mail):
OK, here's my plan: First, let's develop a computer program for assigning a point score to a proposed districting map. Every corner in the map costs X number of points. Every mile of border costs Y points. Following a county line gets a discount. River segments of length>Z that are not crossed by bridges might be free. Make another charge for districts that don't have the average number of registered voters.

Make the program source code freely available, so that anyone can see how it works. Make the geographic data sets available, so they can run it on their own machine.

Then, allow any citizen to submit a redistricting map. The map with the lowest score wins.
7.29.2008 5:28pm
Dave N (mail):
I kind of like Dr. Scott's proposal. Might even be better than Iowa's system. By the way, I consider myself fairly conservative but I also like the idea of the maximum number of competitive districts and an end to partisan gerrymandering by whichever side is currently doing it.
7.29.2008 5:55pm
CJColucci:
What's so great about "competitive" districts? If we assume that districts should bear some relationship to actual, existing communities, isn't it likely that large numbers of districts aren't and shouldn't be competitive? Try making competitive districts in NYC or Boston or Tulsa or Minot. It won't work without gerrymandering. If distinctive, identifiable communities are in fact overwhelmingly aligned with one party or the other, then shouldn't the districts reflect that fact?
7.29.2008 6:43pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Dr. Weevil,

Phil Burton was my godfather and later taught me how to count votes. He helped my father load my mother into the car when she went into labor with me.

CJColluci,

I suggest you read The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart. Here is the Publishers Weekly review of it on Amazon:

"Pulitzer Prize--finalist Bishop offers a one-idea grab bag with a thesis more provocative than its elaboration. Bishop contends that as Americans have moved over the past three decades, they have clustered in communities of sameness, among people with similar ways of life, beliefs, and in the end, politics. There are endless variations of this clustering—what Bishop dubs the Big Sort—as like-minded Americans self-segregate in states, cities—even neighborhoods. Consequences of the Big Sort are dire: balkanized communities whose inhabitants find other Americans to be culturally incomprehensible; a growing intolerance for political differences that has made national consensus impossible; and politics so polarized that Congress is stymied and elections are no longer just contests over policies, but bitter choices between ways of life. Bishop's argument is meticulously researched—surveys and polls proliferate—and his reach is broad. He splices statistics with snippets of sociological theory and case studies of specific towns to illustrate that while the Big Sort enervates government, it has been a boon to advertisers and churches, to anyone catering to and targeting taste. Bishop's portrait of our post materialistic society will probably generate chatter; the idea is catchy, but demonstrating that like does attract like becomes an exercise in redundancy."

7.29.2008 7:09pm
Dave N (mail):
CJColucci,

I agree. My point is that the most egregious redistrictings do not take community interests into account. Is a Congressional District comprising, say Manhatten, going to be competitive? Under almost any set of circumstances, the answer is "No." But taking fingers of Manhatten and fingers of Staten Island to eliminate Republican prospects in Staten Island is an example of fairly partisan redistricting. (This is not a real example, but it would be possible to draw such a map).
7.29.2008 7:50pm
Dick King:
A case has been made that districts should, as much as possible, be noncompetitive.

I'm not sure what I think, but it is provocative.

-dk
7.29.2008 8:04pm
Dan Hamilton:
On the Texas redistricting. Just to make sure everyone knows what went on.

Texas congress critters are only allowed to meet in Odd numbered years. We don't want them working to hard.

2001 was the year that the redistricting should have been done. There was a Repub majority but there were enough Dems that they could stop any redistricting from being done. If the Dems had allowed it to be done by working with the Repubs, the Dems would have lost about three seats. Remember when the 1990 redistricting was done Texas was very Democrat, they stuck it to the Repubs. So in 2001 the Dems wouldn't let redistricting be done. They knew that the Judges would make only small changes to the 1990 districts thus leaving the Dems with 3 more seats then they would have with redistricting. The Judges who did the redistricting said that it needed to be revisited by the next legisture.

2002 the Dems lost more seats.

2003 the Repub controled Legisture redistricts as the Judges says they should. The Dems go to court saying that redistricting has already been done. The courts find against the Dems. he Dems make a lot of noise and screem and holler. Then they RUN AWAY and hide. Finally one Dem has the integrity to come back to Austin so that there is 2/3 of the legistrature present. The redistricting is voted on and passed. The Dems lose 6 seats.

Moral - Don't count on the NEXT election to protect a underhanded deal.

The Dems wanted to keep the 1990 Democrat redistricting until 2010 even though the state had gone republican. If they had kept a few more seats in the 2002 election they might have pulled it off. If they hadn't tried to shaft the Repubs in 2001 they might have won more seats in 2002.

No Texas DIDN'T redistrict after a redistricting in 2001. Even the Judges that DID the redistricting in 2001 said that the legistrature should redistrict in 2003.

The Greedy 2001/2003 Texas Democrats got just what they should have, shafted in 2003. And RUNNING AWAY OUT OF STATE (Once to OK, and Once to NM) is NOT a valid tactic.
7.29.2008 8:34pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
It is too a valid tactic. Until the voters prove otherwise. They make the call.

Some here believe judges should decide such things.
7.30.2008 12:13am
T. Bolivar:
The redistricting commission the petition creates only handles the state legislature, not Congress, thus getting around the US Const problem that says state legislatures (not independent quasi-executive bureaucracies) draw the plans.

This is some well-drafted legal stuff, these people did their homework. The worst GOP gerrymandering in the state is the US Congressional seats (which are solidly GOP even though the voters lean Dem).

It's unclear who drafted the petition. However, given the fact that Dykem Gossett, a firm that contains some of the state's top GOP election lawyers, is conspiciously absent from the challenges against RMGN, it seems possible that someone in their shop may have drafted it thus creating a conflict for their big Republicans.
7.30.2008 4:28pm
Talisman (mail):
I would offer a darker motivation for RMGN petition. While popular legislative pay cuts and other miscellany serve as an obvious loss leader to the masses, and redistricting serves as a justum bellum for unions and partisan democrats, there is a cleverly obscured truth behind the overly comprehensive measure; its underlying purpose is to effect de facto Tort Reform. The Michigan Trial Attorneys and Mark Brewer know about it, and now so will you. First the alliance; Brewer is obsessed with the Michigan Supreme Court, and Cliff Taylor, and so are most of the would-be Personal Injury lawyers now scrambling to eek out a living, eating scraps off the Bernstein table, or churning "actual attorney fee" lemon law and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act cases. Clearly, Governor Engler's legacy left a solid majority of (former) insurance industry advocates in control of the Supreme Court. This has devastated plaintiff's recoveries in Michigan, and will continue to do so until "something is done". So, since it costs $10 million to (maybe) unseat one justice, and since it takes at least two and maybe three justices to swing the pendulum back toward plaintiffs cases, this proposal is a perfect opportunity for Trial Lawyers use cheaper non-profit campaign dollars to engage citizen initiative "lobbying" to literally eliminate the positions of two opposition justices without spending a dime of hard campaign money, and to spend the hard money on a weakened Cliff Taylor, and achieve de facto tort reform in Michigan. Trial lawyers know that they could never pass substantive pro-plaintiff tort reform in the current rarefied atmosphere of Michigan politics, especially when the Insurers can bring such massive forces to bear to maintain their advantage. Trial Lawyers also know that the "investment" in this proposal would be recouped through attorney fees in just a handful of the doomed cases in the trial and appellate systems right now, not to mention the perfectly meritorious causes of action rotting on the vine as a result of the chilling effect that the dramatic reversals in no-fault and "open and obvious" jurisprudence have caused. So, since the Democrats are desperate to game redistricting, and the people are in a generally foul mood, the trial attorneys saw they could effect tort reform and no one would ever know it. They support liberals and liberal causes anyway, so who is to prove they are behind this when their financial presence in the campaign is consistent, though larger, this election. Not me, for sure, for all I have is circumstantial evidence which is easily shouted down in the court of public opinion. And when the August 10th filing date rolls around, the people will learn a big fat zero from the Campaign Finance disclosures.
What is my circumstantial evidence? Simply this: If the real purpose of this proposal was, as represented to the union, to put the party in a position to avoid judicial tampering with gerrymandering in 2011, then this purpose was clearly served by removing the recourse of appeal to the Supreme Court. Since one provision the proposal already removed any possibility of redistricting appeals, then why enhance the proposal with a second, redundant provision to "gut the GOP" court. The reason, I suggest, is clear. This is not about public policy, or even an elephant versus a donkey; the real fight between is between insurers and plaintiff's lawyers. All involved are made to look like prostitutes - from the plaintiff's bar, the party, the union, insurers, former Governor Engler, and the jurists who have effected such dramatic and devastating judicial tort reforms of their own, and who are now forced to lay bare their naked self interest to prevent this measure from making the ballot. And don't forget Governor Granholm, who, in order to block a Republican block of the RMGN petition certification, refused to make a Republican appointment to Board of State Canvassers, as specifically mandated by the constitution, which is necessary to fill the vacancy caused on that board last week when the Republican member of that solemn body, which is responsible for certifying all elections and maintaining the integrity of the electoral system, had to resign due to his ownership interest of Sterling Corp., a major political PR firm heavily vested in the anti-RMGN cause, and many other election campaigns in Michigan. How did he get put on the board in the first place?
Will they get away with it? That depends on your of definition of "they". One "they" or another will win, and all I really know for sure is that, as usual, "we" probably won't.
7.31.2008 3:19pm